Dr Peter Francis

PhD BSc BSc PGCert T&L


Department of Science and Health

e: peter.francis@setu.ie      t: 059 917000

ORCID ID:0000-0002-9720-6253  ResearchGate  Blog    LinkedIn    Twitter

Dr Francis is a sport scientist, physical therapist, coach and mentor and has a BSc. Sport and Exercise Science, BSc. Physical Therapy and a PhD in Exercise Science. He has worked with teams and individuals in multiple sports at amateur, European and Olympic level.  An established researcher, he lectures in sport, exercise and rehabilitation science and conducts research into the prevention and treatment of running injuries. Specifically, he studies the role of foot development with and without shoes and the implications for movement skills and injury risk.

  • Research Interests
  • Publications
  • Research Supervision
  • Engagement and Collaboration

Research Interests

Humans evolved slowly over the course of millions of years. Our bodies evolved, primarily, to cover large distances in our bare feet while hunting and gathering. Our environment tended to change slowly around us until the advent of agriculture, the industrial revolution and most recently, the internet. This has led to a rapid change in our environment that our bodies are not equipped for. High sugar diets, modern footwear, concrete, excessive screen time and a lack of exercise contribute to modern illness. Our research focuses on differences in foot structure and function between those who have grown up with and without shoes. We seek to understand what the consequences of modern footwear use are for movement skills and injury risk. We also seek to determine what happens when people transition from modern footwear to barefoot or minimalist shoe activities. We have a number of projects taking place with children and adults, including those with existing musculoskeletal conditions.


Peer Reviewed Journal Articles

Francis, P. and Schofield, G., (2020). From barefoot hunter gathering to shod pavement pounding. Where to from here? A narrative review. BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine, 6(1), p.e000577.

Francis, P., Thornley, I., Jones, A. and Johnson, M.I., (2020). Pain and Function in the Runner a Ten (din) uous Link. Medicina, 56(1), p.21.

Francis, P. Oddy, C., Tucker, B, C. and Johnson, I, M. (2019). Adaptation of Running Biomechanics to Repeated Barefoot Running: Letter to the Editor, The American Journal of Sports Medicine. Ahead of Print.

Francis, P. and Schofield, G., (2019). The Urban Runner with an Evolutionary Legacy: Suggestions Toward a Middle Ground. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. Ahead of Print.

Thornley, I., Hynd, J., Stein, S., Butterworth, M., Hind, K., & Francis, P. (2019). A new approach to the classification of muscle health: preliminary investigations. Physiological Measurement.

Wilson, H. V., Jones, A. D., Johnson, M. I., & Francis, P. (2019). The effect of inter-electrode distance on radial muscle displacement and contraction time of the biceps femoris, gastrocnemius medialis and biceps brachii, using Tensiomyography in healthy participants. Physiological measurement.

O’Sullivan, I., Clarke, S., Hind, K., Johnson, M. and Francis P. (2019) Are changes in running economy associated with changes in performance? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Sports Sciences, online first.

Francis, P., Whatman, C., Sheerin, K., Hume, P., & Johnson, M. I. (2019). The Proportion of Lower Limb Running Injuries by Gender, Anatomical Location and Specific Pathology: A Systematic Review. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine,18 (1), 21-31.

Francis, P., Mc Cormack, W., Lyons, M., & Jakeman, P. (2019). Age-group differences in the performance of selected tests of physical function and association with lower extremity strength. Journal of geriatric physical therapy42(1), 1-8.

Jones, A., Jones, G., Greig, N., Bower, P., Brown, J., Hind, K., & Francis, P. (2019). Epidemiology of injury in English Professional Football players: A cohort study. Physical therapy in sport35, 18-22.

Francis, P., Schofield, G., & Mackay, L. (2018). Being barefoot. Prevalence at home, in school and during sport: a cross-sectional survey of 714 New Zealand secondary school boys. Journal of foot and ankle research11(1), 42.

Wilson, H. V., Johnson, M. I., & Francis, P. (2018). Repeated stimulation, inter-stimulus interval and inter-electrode distance alters muscle contractile properties as measured by Tensiomyography. PloS one13(2), e0191965.

Jones, G., Burnham, V., Francis, P., & Johnson, M. (2018). An Investigation into the Effect of Blood Flow Restriction on Pain and Muscular Endurance in Healthy Human Participants.Journal of Physical Medicine1(1).

Francis, P., Gray, K., & Perrem, N. (2018). The Relationship Between Concentric Hip Abductor Strength and Performance of the Y-Balance Test (YBT). International Journal of Athletic Therapy and Training23(1), 42-47.

Francis, P., Mc Cormack, W., Toomey, C., Norton, C., Saunders, J., Kerin, E., ... & Jakeman, P. (2017). Twelve weeks’ progressive resistance training combined with protein supplementation beyond habitual intakes increases upper leg lean tissue mass, muscle strength and extended gait speed in healthy older women. Biogerontology18(6), 881-891.

Fitzharris, N., Jones, G., Jones, A., & Francis, P. (2017). The first prospective injury audit of League of Ireland footballers.BMJ open sport & exercise medicine3(1), e000220.

Francis, P. (2017). To run shod or not shod: Are we asking the right question?. Co-Kinetic Journal, (74).

Francis, P., Oddy, C., & Johnson, M. I. (2017). Reduction in Plantar Heel Pain and a Return to Sport After a Barefoot Running Intervention in a Female Triathlete With Plantar Fasciitis. International Journal of Athletic Therapy and Training22(5), 26-32.

Francis, P., McCormack, W., Toomey, C., Lyons, M., & Jakeman, P. (2017). Muscle strength can better differentiate between gradations of functional performance than muscle quality in healthy 50–70 y women. Brazilian journal of physical therapy21(6), 457-464.

Wilson, H., Johnson, M. I., & Francis, P. (2017). Contractile Rate of Muscle Displacement Estimated from the Slope of the Displacement-Time Curve using Tensiomyography. Advances in Skeletal Muscle Function Assessment.

Francis, P. (2017). Voluntary contractile rate of torque development in healthy 50-70 year old women: Measurement of, association with functional tasks and response to intervention. Advances in Skeletal Muscle Function Assessment.

Llewellyn, H., Konstantaki, M., Johnson, M., & Francis, P. (2017). The effect of a Pilates exercise programme on perceived functional disability and pain associated with non-specific chronic low back pain. MOJ Yoga & Physical Therapy2(1).

Mayhew, L., Johnson, M. I., Francis, P., Snowdon, N., & Jones, G. (2017). Inter-rater reliability, internal consistency and common technique flaws of the Tuck Jump Assessment in elite female football players. Science and Medicine in Football1(2), 139-144.

Jones, A. D., Hind, K., Wilson, H., Johnson, M. I., & Francis, P. (2017). A standardised protocol for the assessment of lower limb muscle contractile properties in football players using Tensiomyography. Advances in Skeletal Muscle Function Assessment.

Francis, P., Lyons, M., Piasecki, M., Mc Phee, J., Hind, K., & Jakeman, P. (2017). Measurement of muscle health in aging.Biogerontology18(6), 901-911.

Francis, P., Ledingham, J., Clarke, S., Collins, D. J., & Jakeman, P. (2016). A comparison of stride length and lower extremity kinematics during barefoot and shod running in well trained distance runners. Journal of sports science & medicine15(3), 417.

Francis, P., Mc Cormack, W., Caseley, A., Copeman, J., & Jones, G. (2016). Body composition changes in an endurance athlete using two different training strategies. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness.

Francis, P., Toomey, C., Mc Cormack, W., Lyons, M., & Jakeman, P. (2016). Measurement of maximal isometric torque and muscle quality of the knee extensors and flexors in healthy 50‐to 70‐year‐old women. Clinical physiology and functional imaging37(4), 448-455.

Norton, C., Toomey, C., McCormack, W. G., Francis, P., Saunders, J., Kerin, E., & Jakeman, P. (2015). Protein supplementation at breakfast and lunch for 24 weeks beyond habitual intakes increases whole-body lean tissue mass in healthy older adults–3. The Journal of nutrition146(1), 65-69.

Research Supervision

  • Maisie Squibb – PhD A comparison of foot musculoskeletal structure and function between children and adolescents in the UK and New Zealand (2020 – 2023)
  • Isobel Thornley - PhD - Muscle Health across the Adult Lifespan
  • Ashley Jones - PhD- Muscle Injury in English Professional Football
  • Cassie Oddy - PhD - Neuromuscular Adaptation to Barefoot Running
  • Ian O’Sullivan - PhD - Consistency of Training as a Determinant of Running Performance
  • Lawrence Mayhew - PhD - Neuromuscular Risk Factors for Injury in Female Soccer
  • Ian Entwistle- PhD - Neuromuscular and Musculoskeletal Health of Retired Rugby Players
  • Hannah Blackburn - PhD - The Impact of Minimalist Footwear on Pain, Injury and Biomechanics
  • Hannah Wilson - PhD - The Effect of Kinesiology Tape on Pain and Muscle Function - 2019
  • Priscilla Wittkopf - PhD - Investigations into the effect of distorting the visual appearance of body parts on pain perception - 2019
Areas of Interest for future supervision
  • The Role of Barefoot Activities on Foot Development
  • Running Biomechanics
  • Neuromuscular Adaptation
  • Injury Risk.

Engagement and Collaboration

Dr Francis has worked as a performance science and medicine consultant to the Athletics Association of Ireland since 2011, which has involved coach education and providing training camp support to athletes abroad. He was awarded a 6-month research sabbatical at the Sports Research Institute New Zealand (SPRINZ) located in Auckland University of Technology. During the sabbatical he noticed cultural differences in barefoot activities among New Zealanders and in particular, during a secondary school athletics event on the track next to his office. He designed and carried out a study to determine the prevalence of barefoot activity among New Zealand boys which has since been published. 

Dr Francis has received €80,000 in research funding from minimalist footwear company Vivobarefoot to investigate differences in foot structure and function between children who grow up with and without traditional footwear.